This year I decided to combine my Black History blog with another one of my favorite times of the year : Oscar Sunday! (Picks will be here shortly)
Let's talk about ole Hattie McDaniel.
She looks like a great Big Mama don't she?
You may recognize her better this way...
Hattie McDaniel was born June 10, 1895 in Wichita, Kansas to former slaves. She was the youngest of 13 siblings. Two of her siblings were also actors : Sam McDaniel who was the only black to appear on I Love Lucy, and Etta McDaniel who appeared in the original King Kong movie.
Her family moved to Denver, Colorado where she attended East River High School. While in school she sang, danced, and acted alongside a few of her siblings in The Mighty Minstrels. Knowing she had found her calling, she dropped out of high school to pursue her dreams (who needs calculus to be a performer).
From there, Hattie spent her formative years working more minstrel shows and landing a gig singing with an orchestra led by George Morrison. This led to her performing on a radio station in Denver, making her one of the first African American women to do so. She also began a career as a blues singer writing some of her own material and finding steady work at a hotel lounge in Milwaukee.
She followed in her before-mentioned siblings' footsteps and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood. To make ends meet she worked alongside Sam on a radio show titled The Optimistic Do-nuts and was dubbed "Hi Hat Hattie". She parlayed her success in radio to her first appearance on the big screen. A film titled The Golden West in 1932. 7 years and 64 films later, Mattie would secure the role of a lifetime in the film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind where she played a very helpful and insightful maid. Check out a scene below...
At the 12th Academy Awards in 1939, Hattie McDaniel brought home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Here is her acceptance speech...
Oh Hattie! You are a credit to the black race indeed! The sad part about Hattie receiving that Oscar is that she had to sit in the back of the Ambassador Hotel at a segregated table because she was black.
Some blacks didn't feel that Hattie was a credit to her race though. The NAACP thought she should turn down roles portraying maids and other degrading occupations. Hattie responded by saying "I can either work in Hollywood as a maid and make $700 a week, or I can work as an actual maid and make $70 a week". Lord knows, Hattie had her experience as a real life maid trying to make ends meet while working on the radio and small movie roles in Los Angeles before she hit it big.
13 years later, Hattie was diagnosed with breast cancer and died shortly thereafter. She was 57. She was awarded two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One for her work in radio and one for her work in film.
I'll end this blog by quoting Hattie's philosophy in life : "I did my best, and God did the rest"
Hallelujah Holla Back,